Back-to-school shopping is a breeze if you're looking for a girl's size 6X, junior size 7 or boy's size L.
Merchants are packed with logo T-shirts, hip jeans, hoodie sweaters and athletic pants in standard kids' and teen sizes.
But try to find the same trends in a girls' size 121/2, junior size 19 or guys' size 2XL and you'll find that many of the same companies who court young business are noticeably devoid of large sizes.For the estimated 6 million overweight kids in the U.S. who are too large to fit in to mainstream youth offerings, back- to-school shopping can be grueling.
And the ranks are growing: according to Newsweek, the proportion of U.S. kids who are overweight jumped from 5 percent in 1964 to nearly 13 percent in 1994, the most recent year on record.
The magazine also says experts believe the trend has accelerated and one child in three is either overweight or in risk of becoming so.
For these children, the school experience is one of "ongoing prejudice, unnoticed discrimination and almost constant harassment," according to the National Education Association.
There are many good resources dealing with weight management in children. On the flip side, the >National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) even has kids' projects designed to help overweight children learn size acceptance.
However, the issue of helping overweight kids learn to use fashion to their advantage is largely ignored -- the big push has been for kids to either lose the weight to fit into "normal" sizes or learn to love their bodies and wear whatever they please.
A realistic approach, with regards to image, makes the most sense. Even if an overweight child is put on a weight management program, there's no guarantee that the weight will come off quickly (or even at all).
Helping big kids use apparel and accessories to look their best will not only bolster self-confidence, but help them fit in better with classmates.
Plus-size style tips
- Don't let the child hide out in oversized T-shirts and baggy pants -- it isn't cool or flattering, just sloppy. Instead go for leg-flattering styles like flares or bootcut.
- Do let the child wear styles and colors that he or she likes, but use some common sense. A plump girl donning Britney-type midriff-baring tops is only going to be showcasing extra weight. Instead, let the child choose a tight-fitting tank (just like her peers wear) but layer it with an unbuttoned sleeveless shirt.
- Big kids tend to look older than their biological age (and some of the plus size clothing makes it even worse), so pay extra attention to keeping age-appropriate haircuts, accessories, shoes, etc.
- Items that aren't size-specific (accessories, shoes, jewelry, backpacks, handbags) are the best way for overweight kids to feel exactly like their peers. Go overboard here!
- Neatness counts with all kids, but for larger kids who tend to gravitate toward sloppy oversized T-shirts and jeans, details definitely count: clothing should be ironed, free of stains or tears. Shoes should be spick and span and grooming spotless.
Where to shop